[JURIST] A Kenyan court on Monday convicted seven Somali pirates [JURIST news archive] on charges related to the attack on a German naval supply ship in March 2009, sentencing them to five years in prison. According to prosecutors, the men attempted to hijack the ship [AfricaNews report] using AK47 rifles and rocket propelled grenades, but the hijacking was prevented by security forces on the ship. Following the attack, the pirates were tracked and apprehended by ships acting as part of EU Naval Forces Somalia (EU NAVFOR) [official website] before being transferred to Kenyan custody to stand trial. A lawyer for the men urged the court to be lenient [Xinhua report] in their sentencing, stating that the men would be a burden to Kenyan taxpayers. The men also indicated that they have been rehabilitated through their time in prison and that they will actively work to discourage others from participating in piracy. While the five-year sentence is the shortest handed down by Kenyan courts for piracy charges since the country began hearing piracy cases in 2006, the judge delivering the judgment of the court indicated that it would be a strong deterrent for others considering engaging in piracy. EU NAVFOR praised the judgment [press release] as an “important step in the co-operation between European Union and Kenya in the repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.” The men have 14 days to appeal the court’s decision.
The international community continues with efforts to fight maritime piracy, both through the funding of UN-backed piracy courts, and through prosecution in multiple jurisdictions. In July, a court in Seychelles convicted and sentenced [JURIST report] a group of Somali pirates to 10 years in prison following the attempted hijacking of Seychelles coastguard ship. In June, the UN announced the opening of a new high-security courtroom [JURIST report] in Kenya that will hear piracy cases. The announcement came after the UN announced $9.3 million in donations [JURIST report] to help fund piracy courts in Kenya and Seychelles. Also in June, a Dutch court concluded Europe’s first Somali pirate trial by convicting and sentencing a group of suspects [JURIST reports] to five years in prison. In May, a Yemeni court sentenced six pirates to death [JURIST report] for their roles in an attack on a Yemeni oil tanker in 2009. Charges are also currently pending [JURIST report] against piracy suspects in the US.